Holiday Floral Threats

During the holidays, many homes may be decorated with traditional greenery – poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and lilies – which present potential toxic encounters for household pets. If these plants are part of your holiday tradition, limiting your pets’ exposure is key.

Poinsettias, a common Christmas plant, only represent a mild concern with selfcatdogpoinsettia-limiting signs. The white sap in the plant contains chemicals that if exposed to or ingested, may lead to skin irritation, drooling, vomiting or rarely diarrhea. These signs, when noted in dogs and cats, usually resolve without a need for medical intervention.

Mistletoe may be found in American (Phoradendron sertinum) and European (Viscum album) varieties, the American variety being less toxic – the berries contain various toxins and, if ingested in small quantities or accidentally, present similar signs to Poinsettia – drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. However, IF ingested in large amounts, more serious signs such as abnormal heart rate, hypotension, seizures and death have been reported.

Holly, with its spiny leaves and berries, may also cause mild digestive distress in dogs and cats. The leave, with the spines, can cause mechanical injuries on sensitive oral membranes, and berries contain several toxic substances that may lead to head shaking, vomiting, drooling and diarrhea.

Depending on the plant species, lilies represent a mild threat to a severe one to cats. Less toxic species such as Peace, Peruvian and Calla Lilies may cause only short-term signs of foaming at the mouth, drooling and vomiting. Of greater concern are true lilies of Lilium or Hemerocallis species, such as Day, Tiger, Easter, Red and Western Lilies. Even small amounts ingested of a few petals or even vase water may result in acute kidney failure. If your cat is seen eating any part of a lily, immediate veterinary attention is indicated. Decontamination via induced vomiting, intravenous fluid therapy and kidney function tests may all be indicated.

If there are any suspected toxic exposures to any of the plants discussed, call our offices for recommendations. Remember, preventing contact with and keeping these decorative plants out of reach helps ensure a peaceful holiday for all.

By: Dr. Carter
Skinner Animal Clinic